Tuesday, December 18, 2007

FOB Patriot and Beyond

As luck would have it during my visit to Fort Bragg for PSYOP Regimental Week a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity of visiting FOB Patriot. FOB Patriot is the pre-deployment training area run by 1st Army. PSYOP Reservists along with all Army Reservists and National Guard troops are cycled through FOB Patriot prior to deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For me it brought back memories of one of my VERY early Army experiences – ROTC Summer Camp at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation (IGMR) in Pennsylvania, summer of 1968. While the summer camp serves as the final transition point from Cadet to 2LT, this camp’s secondary purpose was to prepare soldiers to deploy to Viet Nam. High on the list of things to learn was how to spot and avoid booby traps. All I remember was punji sticks and don’t step on the trip wires.

Fast forward not quite 40 years and I’m walking through the training lane on IEDs and VBIEDs which is affectionately known as the “Petting Zoo” and the instructor’s presentation about today’s dangers also included trip wires. Some things change and others don’t.

Speaking of not changing, I’ve always felt that in some ways the Army can be gifted in knowing how to make a person miserable. “We don’t have to train to be miserable” has been a well used phrase, perhaps since the formation of the first military force. FOB Patriot has its own unique case in point, no, it’s not the crowded tent like quarters, nor the shower or latrine. I’m told it’s the brainchild of a General Officer who felt that the troops needed to be more efficient. His answer – eat standing up. That’s right, no sitting down to savor the latest in Mermite cuisine. The troops’ chow is brought out in Mermite cans twice a day and they have to eat standing up. On the face of it, this would defy the common sense test. While I haven’t deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, I don’t recall ever seeing a Mess Hall with everyone standing up. No matter that this is neither physically or mentally healthy, it strikes me as plain stupid, but then again, Generals will be Generals.

During my visit I got a chance to talk to some of the troops. I learned about the M4 and the new body armor. I marveled at the upbeat nature of all I met.

As I think about the training, it’s clear to me that while the training appears solid and troop morale is high, we are missing a bet and violating one of the military’s most basic tenets – ‘train as you fight’.

The nature of the PSYOP organizational split means that Reserve PSYOP soldiers will not be training along side their counterparts from either the 4th POG or the Joint Military Information Support Command (MISC) (the former JPSE). In my view PSYOP is a continually evolving profession and one where cross fertilization and the ability to think out of the box is the norm not the exception.

With 2008 just around the corner I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very best in the New Year and to our troops: God Bless and God Speed.

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